At first it looked as though the story of the Pope's meeting with the Kentucky clerk who went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples was either made up out of holy cloth, or wildly exaggerated by her own handlers. But then the Vatican grudgingly admitted that not only had a private meeting indeed taken place, but that the Pope himself had reached out to Kim Davis. And that everybody was sworn to secrecy until Francis was safely back home in Rome.
But what had really precipitated my own descent from the national Papal High was his meeting on Thursday with Stephen Schwarzman in a Harlem parochial school. This multibillionaire vulture capitalist -- whose own personal dogma is More Money, More Power, More-ality -- had awarded millions of dollars (chump change for him) in scholarships to students, and thus bought himself a post-modern plenary indulgence in the form of a greedwashing photo-op of himself being personally blessed by the People's Pope.
If Kim Davis is the poster girl for homophobes, Shwarzman is the poster boy for plutocratic supremacists. He's as much a self-dealing martyr as she is, whining regularly that billionaires like him are the real victims of the class war. He is infamous for having once compared tycoons too-mildly taxed by the government to Jews persecuted by the Nazis.
" Back in 2010," wrote Paul Krugman last year in a column called Paranoia of the Plutocrats, "Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman and chief executive of the Blackstone Group, declared that proposals to eliminate tax loopholes for hedge fund and private-equity managers were 'like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939'".
And from a profile of Schwarzman in New York magazine:
Steve Schwarzman is a perfect poster boy for this age of greed, sharklike, perpetually grinning, a tiny Gordon Gekko without the hair product. In Palm Beach (where he bought a historic landmark house for $20.5 million and tore it down), he eats his three-course lunches (including $400 stone crabs) in less than fifteen minutes and complains about the squeaky rubber soles of a servant’s shoes. Once, in the presence of a Times reporter, he buzzed a man to bring coffee, then stalked off to dress down the servant—“I called you six times.”
|The Pope and the Plute (Instagram Photo by #scentfully sue)|
As if pandering to and blessing a financial predator was not enough of a slap in the face of decency, Pope Francis then proceeded to inform the students that the biggest threat to their happiness is not the wealth inequality engendered by robber barons like Schwarzman -- but an invisible demon.
|Mephistopheles Flying over Wittenberg (Delacroix)|
From the translated transcript of his talk to the assembled poor students, parents, politicians, potentates and plutocrats:
“Who is the one who sows sadness, who sows distrust, who sows envy, who sows evil desires? What is his name? The devil, the devil! The devil always sows sadness because he doesn't want us happy, he doesn't want us to dream."Holy Hell! It brings a whole new meaning to Feeling the Bern. Schwarzman must feel so happy to have been absolved, his guilt deflected to a make-believe boogeyman.
From my feeling of euphoria that this new Pope was someone refreshing and different, it was a jolting downer of a deja vu trip back to my days in Catholic school when Sister Mary Mean would regularly warn us that chewing the communion wafer instead of gagging it down whole was a mortal sin punishable by eternal damnation and third degree burns. Listening to the Pope's spiel at Our Lady Queen of Angels suddenly revived memories of all the hellish episodes that had caused me to become a born-again Lapsed Catholic in the first place.
So regardless of whether the Pope's meeting with Kim Davis turns out to have been a vast right wing media conspiracy, or a set-up job by conservative clerics designed to deliberately harsh his mellow among liberals, I am still sticking with secular humanism. Pope Francis knew full well that the well-dressed oligarchs sitting in the front rows at all his gigs were not ordinary folk.
I've since learned that besides rightly calling capitalism "the dung of the devil," Pope Francis is a die-hard believer in Satan as an actual, living being capable of physically possessing actual, living beings. (Right up there with the belief of the majority of the American people, I might add.) Even some Catholic scholars think that he goes a bit too far with the hell fetish, as he blames everything from the Mexican drug wars to the Middle East conflagrations on Old Nick instead of on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry and the military-industrial complex. His ascension to the throne of Saint Peter has also sparked a steep rise during the past few years in the number of people seeking exorcisms.
The next thing you know, we'll hear that he had a secret meeting with Linda Blair while he was in town.
Meanwhile, the establishment has seized upon the Pope's meeting with Kim Davis as the latest political chapter in the Culture Wars saga. New York Times editorialist Francis X. Clines writes,
In his address to Congress, the pope was diplomatic in alluding to the church’s firm and well known opposition to same-sex marriage, maintaining, “fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.” But in his decision to seek out Ms. Davis, Pope Francis seemed to suggest the Vatican was willing to get more involved in the politics of the issue. The papal invitation will hardly diminish Ms. Davis’s standing as a national celebrity and rallying figure for those opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage, including some Republican candidates for president who sought to share her spotlight. While in Washington, she confirmed that she had left the Democratic party and become a Republican. Her attorney said they eagerly awaited a photographic record of the papal meeting from the Vatican.My published response:
Not only did the Pope meet with Kim Davis, the Vatican decreed that the visit be kept secret until he was safely gone. The cover-up is just as bad as the meeting itself. It makes the Pope look like just another self-interested politician with a hidden agenda. It makes the Church look like just another corporation more concerned about forging a new public image than in rooting out its own greed and corruption and entrenched hypocrisy.
My Pope balloon had already begun to deflate when Francis visited a Harlem school and warned little children about "the devil" instead of warning them about the vulture capitalists and politicians standing right next to them in the room. Too many rich and influential people were able to buy themselves their own P.R. camera time and co-opt the same poor people they regularly ignore or blame in their capacity as power brokers. The Pope should have chased those money changers right out of that school and performed an exorcism of the real-life demon of Wall Street while he was in town. Instead, he sold medieval superstition to little kids. It was cringe-worthy, and anti-Enlightenment.
That being said, I do champion Kim Davis's right to stay strong and believe in whatever she wants. But instead of complaining and making a martyr out of herself, she should resign her public post and find a job where she doesn't have to be in contact with the good people she seems to find so distasteful. A cloister and a vow of silence might be just the ticket.Thanks to the Pope, the miscreants of politics and finance and war can exorcise themselves of those tired old minima culpas known as "mistakes were made" and "nobody could ever have predicted."
Now they can just shrug their shoulders, claim that the Devil made them do it, and condemn the rest of us to a living hell while they bribe and stampede their own way into Paradise.
|Blessed Steve Schwarzman's $42 million estate (Mephistopheles-eye view)|